When you stand accused of a crime, there are several things that the prosecution must do. One of these things is proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, each element of the criminal charges against you. In the case of one recently evicted man in Ocean City, that standard worked in his favor in his fourth-degree burglary case. Since the state lacked sufficient evidence that the man broke into a crawl space, as opposed to merely walking into an open crawl space, the Court of Special Appeals determined that the case against the man was insufficient, and he was entitled to an acquittal on the burglary charge.
Criminal cases involve a great deal of knowledge: knowledge of the facts of the case, of the relevant laws, and of trial strategy. In some cases, making agreements with the prosecution and concessions in court can be beneficial to the overall advancement of your interests. In other cases, though, such choices can harm you if you want to contest those issues at a later point. A woman convicted of burglary found the Court of Special Appeals unwilling to hear her sufficiency-of-the-evidence arguments on appeal because the actions she’d taken in the trial court created a waiver of her right to advance this argument.
Evidence is clearly a key component of any criminal case. The state and the party charged seek to prove or disprove certain facts through the use of two types of evidence: direct and circumstantial. It is commonly understood that direct evidence can prove a fact by itself, such as eyewitness testimony of a particular event or occurrence. On the other hand, circumstantial evidence (also known as indirect evidence) does not directly prove the fact to be decided but instead is evidence of another fact or series of facts from which one may reach certain conclusions regarding the truth of the fact in question. Courts are often called upon to judge the sufficiency of the evidence in a criminal case. In order to present the appropriate evidence to defend against criminal charges, it is vitally important that you contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as early as possible in the proceedings.
Recently, a Maryland court addressed the sufficiency of circumstantial evidence in a burglary case. Here, a burglary took place at Martha Goodenough’s home in Frederick, Maryland. Among the items stolen were a computer, two T.V.s, three purses, and jewelry. That same day, Calvin Hall sold several pieces of Goodenough’s jewelry to a pawn shop in West Virginia. The owner of the shop recorded Hall’s driver’s license information at the time of the sale. Several times during the next two weeks, Hall returned to the same pawn shop to sell more of the jewelry. The police learned that the items sold matched the description of Goodenough’s jewelry and obtained a subpoena to review Hall’s telephone records.
Criminal charges fall within two commonly known and distinct categories: misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors generally include less serious offenses and carry a less severe sentence than felonies. Despite the differences, both types of criminal charges are serious matters to be addressed as soon as a person is arrested. Keep in mind that there may be many different ways to respond to a criminal arrest or charge, depending on the circumstances of the case. In order to be sure you are presenting the strongest defense for your particular charges, it is critical that you contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
In any criminal case, it is important to pay close attention to the specific charges. In a recent case, Counts v. State of Maryland, the State charged the defendant with five counts of burglary and other related crimes. The issue in this case concerns Count 4, which charged the defendant with stealing property having a value of less than $1,000. But on the day of the trial, citing a typographical error, the prosecutor asked the court to amend Count 4 to read in pertinent part: “theft of at least a thousand but less than $10,000.” The defendant’s attorney objected, pointing out that the amendment changed the charged offense from a misdemeanor to a felony. And since felonies typically carry longer sentences, the potential incarceration went from 18 months to 10 years.
The collection, retention, and use of DNA evidence in a criminal matter can raise various privacy concerns. In a recent Maryland case, a homeless man, George Varriale, voluntarily provided his own DNA samples to the local county police department in order to clear himself as a suspect in an alleged rape case. Here, the detective investigating the alleged rape identified himself to Varriale, told him why he was in the area, and asked if he would be willing to sign a form consenting to be searched. Varriale agreed to the search, signed a consent form, and provided DNA samples. While he was cleared of the rape charges, Varriale’s DNA later matched a DNA profile that was associated with an unrelated burglary incident.
Based on this evidence, he was charged with two counts of second-degree burglary, malicious destruction of property, and theft over $1,000, all in connection with a burglary that took place in 2008. Varriale moved to suppress the DNA evidence, which the court denied. Later, Varriale agreed to a conditional guilty plea to burglary in the second degree. After the sentencing phase, Varriale appealed the court’s denial of the motion to suppress, arguing two essential points: 1) by retaining and analyzing his DNA samples after he was eliminated as a suspect in the alleged rape, the police conducted an unreasonable and warrantless search in violation of the Fourth Amendment; and 2) under the Maryland DNA Collection Act, the state was not permitted to retain his DNA once he had been cleared of suspicion in the investigation for which his sample had been taken.
The court of special appeals rejected both arguments and upheld the court’s denial of the motion to suppress. Regarding Varriale’s contention that the police exceeded the scope of his consent to a search, the court concluded that the state had no obligation to obtain a warrant before reexamining the DNA sample that was obtained lawfully. Under applicable case law, the court found that once the state lawfully obtains a DNA sample, retention and later examination of the sample does not ordinarily amount to a search. Next, under the plain language of the Maryland DNA Collection Act, in order to trigger the expungement of DNA records, there must have been a criminal action instituted against the person, and that person must not have been convicted of the crime for which he or she was charged. Here, the court concluded that Varriale had never been charged with the alleged rape, nor arrested for it, and therefore he was not entitled to claim the benefit of the statutory expungement provisions. In coming to this conclusion, the court relied upon the plain language of the state statute. Continue reading →